The internet is definitely a powerful tool.
My name is Olivia Wilks and I am 20 years old.
As you can guess by my age, I grew up in the times when the sensation of the Internet was buzzing and still is popping to this very day. The internet is definitely a powerful tool. It can and does reap benefits [and] serves many purposes such as providing entertainment, information, and networking and communication. In contrast, it can also consists of cyber bullying, cyber sex-trafficking, sexual harassment, exploitation, and violation of someones safety and security. The Internet can be both a blessing and a curse.
I never understood the potential dangers or risks.
Vibe.to was Canada’s number one teen online forum and community especially in the black community. You could create a free profile, customize it and chat with thousands of other members. It seemed completely harmless considering everyone I knew had an account. Mind you, I was in grade 7, around 12 or 13 years old at that time. I never understood the potential dangers or risks, believing that Vibe was safe. I was completely wrong.
I then realized their comments were not always genuine as they wanted exchange of “favours”.
I would post pictures of myself on my profile, just like it was facebook. I had guys liking my pictures, giving me ratings such as 8/10, and eventually inboxing me such as “Looking proper mami” “Geez, your body is poppin”. I was at the point in my life where I already had low self-esteem, and these beautiful faces complimenting me on the other side of a computer screen gave me some sort of validation of my beauty and who I was. It felt good besides my mother calling me beautiful.
I allowed these young guys to call me “sexy” , “sweetie” , “mami”, “ting”, or whatever they pleased. I became intrigued in their conversation, or as we call it now “their spit game”. I then realized their comments were not always genuine as they wanted exchange of “favours”.
I encountered cyber bullying and harassment, leading to deactivating my account and becoming depressed.
I had Facebook for almost a decade, it has been a long journey. I encountered cyber bullying and harassment, leading to deactivating my account and becoming depressed. I was bullied for my looks and put down. I was called “ugly” “beat” “gross”, “salamander”, “horse” “beaver”. I was called all sorts of names. These injurious messages were also delivered in Facebook’s Honesty Box, where you could send an anonymous message to any of your Facebook friends. It all had me feeling verbally and sexually harassed without any consequence.
Trust your intuition, trust your gut, trust yourself because you are usually right.
To my sisters, my mothers, my friends, my loved ones, and all of the wonderful women out there, I will leave you with some final words. The internet can be glorious, yet gruesome. You may come across a guy from your old school showering you with sweet words with the intentions of luring you and exploiting you. You may find your notifications blowing up with a guy liking all of your recent and past pictures and statuses. My words of advice would be to assess the space that you share or are about to share with that person. Is it safe? Is it healthy? What are the potential repercussions and harms?
Trust your intuition, trust your gut, trust yourself because you are usually right. Never for a second should you shut your gut reaction up because you may think that “it is just a feeling of cowardness”. That same gut reaction may be telling you something that you cannot see beyond the computer screen.
It is heartbreaking we have lost Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and many others because of being cyber-bullied and sexually exploited on the Internet and social media sites.
Young girls and women, if you are ever in a situation, I advise that you tell a friend, a parent, a guardian, a help phone line, someone you trust. Sometimes it is better to get the advice and help from someone else before proceeding without caution. Family members, friends, loved ones, professionals, and everyone, I ask you to sit down with our young girls and women and have a talk with them. Talk to them about the Internet, social media, the beauty and the horrors of it. Ask those critical, uncomfortable, and perhaps embarrassing questions. Some young girls and women may open up right away and disclose.
Some may be a bit reluctant, hesitate, or may resent at first but we are losing more youth to the ramifications of the Internet and social media, than to the dangers outside of it. It is heartbreaking we have lost Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and many others because of being cyber-bullied and sexually exploited on the Internet and social media sites. The Internet and social media doesn’t necessarily have to be altogether dangerous or boring, together we can turn it into a platform to speak on the concerns such as cyber safety and other social issues.
We can discuss, network, and be in solidarity about such concerns.